Romance scam sets world record
In late 2019 Essilor International discovered fraudulent fund transfers totalling 6.3 billion baht at its Thai unit, Essilor Manufacturing (Thailand).
Chamanan Phetporee, chief finance officer of Essilor Manufacturing (Thailand), was arrested and charged with multiple crimes including theft.
As the investigation into fraudulent transactions unfolded, police found themselves looking into one of the biggest romance scams in history, according to Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commissioner Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej.
He said Ms Chamanan was duped by a gang of criminals who invented "Andrew Chang", an American medical officer based in Afghanistan who inherited large amounts of money and wanted to transfer those funds to Thailand.
Through lies and manipulation, Ms Chamanan ended up stealing from her company and over six months from July-December 2019, she made over 250 fund transfers to 128 accounts at 70 banks in 17 countries.
"The romance scam was the start of fraudulent financial activity. Initially she intended to transfer US$300 million [some 10.17 billion baht] and eventually managed to move 6.22 billion baht. These scammers invented stories to trick her," he said.
According to the CIB chief, the funds were moved from the company's accounts at JPMorgan Chase Bank in Bangkok and New York. In Thailand, police discovered seven accounts with 11 transactions totalling 67 million baht.
In the romance scam, police arrested 21 Thais and two Nigerian suspects who were nabbed in Malaysia pending an extradition to face charges here.
Authorities managed to trace the stolen funds and recover more than 243,000 baht from the scammers.
As for the fictitious "Andrew Chang", the scammers had used photos from the Facebook page of a Malaysian man to make up the profile.
"This case must have been one in a million. We found out Ms Chamanan agreed to purchase a 30-million-baht house and paid a deposit of 1.5 million out of her own pocket. The scammers drained her accounts and started inventing stories to get more," said a source.
- drain: to take money out of a bank account, etc. until there is nothing left - ใช้จนหมด
- dupe: to trick someone into believing something that is not true or into doing something that is stupid or illegal - หลอกลวง
- fictitious: fiction; describing imaginary people and events, not real ones - บันเทิงคดี, นวนิยาย, เรื่องเล่า
- fraudulent: dishonest and illegal - ซึ่งฉ้อโกง
- inherit: to receive money, a house, etc. from someone after they have died - รับมรดก
- manipulation: the process of influencing or controlling something in a clever and dishonest way -
- nabbed (verb): caught or arrested - ถูกจับ, โดนจับกุม
- recover (verb): to get something back (usually that has been lost or stolen) - ได้กลับคืนมา
- romance: a love story - เรื่องรักใคร่, นวนิยายรักใคร่
- scam: a dishonest plan, especially for getting money - กลโกง, แผนร้าย
- scammer (noun): a criminal is clever at tricking you out of your money by taking advantage of any weaknesses they can discover - นักฉ้อโกง, นักหลอกลวง
- theft (noun): (the act of) dishonestly taking something which belongs to someone else and keeping it - การลักขโมย
- transaction: a business dealing - การติดต่อทางธุรกิจ
- transfer: to move from one person/thing to another - ส่งผ่าน, ถ่ายทอด